In February, I wrote about my son's challenges with writing. He was not at all interested in writing or reading. His grades in these areas were not good and everyone in the house was frustrated. Amir was in fourth grade at the time. Things have changed since then. He's now in fifth grade and he received an A in reading on his first report card. He's enjoying the books that he reads for class. On December 9th, he'll represent his class in the school-wide spelling bee and if he wins that, he will represent his school at the Arizona spelling bee. My child who brought home a report card last year with Cs and a D is now on the honor roll.
One of the differences between this year and last is his teacher, Mr. Z. Mr. Z is one of those master-teachers you encounter only a couple times in your life, if you're lucky. He is compassionate, energetic, funny, smart, inspiring. And he's a man. This is only the second time that Amir has had a man as a teacher and that's not okay if you believe, as I do, that gender matters with role models. Mr. Z recommends books to Amir that a young boy on the cusp of his teen years can relate to, like Wringer by Jerry Spinelli which is about peer pressure and violence. The book that the class is reading now, Maniac Magee (also by Spinelli and a Newberry Award winner), is about a young boy who likes to read. It's also about race relations. Amir's class has discussions about race and racial stereotypes. I don't think it's a coincidence that Amir is interested in reading and writing at a time when he's reading literature that's relevant to his life.
I've talked about Ava's writing this year in a recent post. She's reading and writing up a storm. She too has an incredible teacher.
And my writing? I've been getting it in. I promised myself to focus more on my own goals this year, and I did. I grabbed moments to write whenever I could and I stopped feeling guilty about it. I learned to say, "Shut the door, I'm writing" and "Stop talking to me, can't you see I'm writing?" or "Ain't shit funny. Interrupt me one more time and see what happens." Just kidding with the last quote. I would never talk like that to my family....
Most journals now have an online submission manager and that makes submitting my work so much easier. With just a few clicks you can submit a story. I clicked a lot this year. I also invested in getting professional feedback on my manuscript from a fiction editor. I applied for grants and residencies. I placed a few stories, a poem, and essays. I'll be reading my poetry at Tempe Center for the Arts in April 2011 as part of a series moderated by Catherine Hammond. I'll be reading my essay about Obama as part of a panel at AWP in February. And I'll teach creative writing at Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Spring 2011. CGCC has a new and exciting Creative Writing program headed by Patrick Michael Finn.
So here's to the Writing Gods. May they continue to watch over us.